Seattle Seahawks Minicamp Day 1 Takeaways: Defense Dominates Amid Blustery Conditions

Thanks to a 12th defender in Mother Nature, the Seahawks received extra help manufacturing turnovers to kick off mandatory minicamp at the VMAC.
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jon Rhattigan prepares for a drill during  mandatory minicamp at the VMAC.
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jon Rhattigan prepares for a drill during mandatory minicamp at the VMAC. / Corbin Smith/All Seahawks
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RENTON, Wash. - With swirling winds whipping across the practice field, the Seattle Seahawks opened their three-day mandatory minicamp amid conditions that felt more like mid-November than early June in the Pacific Northwest.

Kicking off the final phase of the offseason program, here are four takeaways from Tuesday's session at the VMAC:

1. Blustery weather made for a mostly forgettable afternoon for Geno Smith and Sam Howell.

With the tempo being the same as OTAs minus pads and contact among other restrictions, including defenders not being able to actively contest the football in coverage, offenses are expected to light it up during mandatory minicamp. But on Tuesday, Mother Nature decided to make things interesting as gusty winds eclipsing 25 miles per hour swept across the field, creating an environment not conducive to throwing the football.

Even early on when Smith and Howell were throwing passes to receivers on air without any defenders in coverage, the wind wreaked havoc, often causing the ball to sail over intender receivers on throws beyond 10 yards through the air or blowing it across the field away from the intended target. The gusts also often prevented spirals from coming out of the quarterback's hands, further impacting the trajectory and making life challenging for receivers trying to track the ball downfield.

As a result, it shouldn't come as a surprise Smith and Howell struggled with accuracy much more than usual, leading to a turnover frenzy for Seattle's defense. Smith uncorked a pair of interceptions during 11-on-11 team drills, including having a back shoulder fade to DK Metcalf swatted away by cornerback Riq Woolen before landing in the hands of safety Julian Love along the sideline. Howell also got picked once during the team period with rookie D.J. James jumping a drag route to tight end Pharoah Brown from the slot to headline an afternoon dominated by defense and the weather.

2. Several newcomers hit the field for the first time, including a new signal caller in PJ Walker.

With training camp still more than six weeks out, the Seahawks made an expected move adding quarterback depth earlier in the week by agreeing to terms with Walker, a fifth-year veteran with prior NFL starting experience. Sporting a No. 15 throwback jersey, he didn't see many reps during the team period as he begins learning offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb's system, but he did receive a handful of snaps in a run period handing off to backs and taking snaps from reserve center Nick Harris.

Having coached against Walker in the past, Mike Macdonald called Walker a welcome addition to Seattle's quarterback room given his previous starting experience in the league and he's looking forward to seeing what he can do as he starts to become more comfortable with Grubb's offense.

"I'm very excited that he's here," Macdonald said. "PJ is a guy that's been around, played some high level football, has had some big wins under center in the NFL, so he's got a lot of great experience... Excited to have him here. It's his first day, so he didn't see a lot of reps, but he'll be here, so we're excited about him."

The roster churning on offense for the Seahawks may not stop with Walker either. Continuing to look for receiving depth, the team welcomed three tryout wideouts to the mix vying for contracts on Tuesday, including a proven commodity in Robbie Chosen wearing No. 17.

Formerly a 1,000-yard receiver for the Panthers in 2020, Chosen has bounced around in recent years with the Cardinals and most recently the Dolphins, catching for passes for 126 yards and a touchdown last season in Miami. Still a capable deep threat with plenty of speed and size, he will be looking to earn himself a more extended audition to compete for a roster spot in August and reeled in one deep ball from Howell in his first practice with the team.

3. Leading the pick parade, Jon Rhattigan keeps capitalizing on his opportunity in the middle.

Due to injuries, Macdonald has yet to see either of Seattle's projected starting linebackers practice yet this spring, and neither Jerome Baker or Tyrel Dodson is expected to return until at least the start of training camp. Though this has created an unsettling situation following the departures of Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks in free agency, their respective absences have also created an opportunity for other players to cash in on extended reps.

Now in his fourth season with the Seahawks, no player may be benefitting more from Baker and Dodson being sidelined than Rhattigan, who has been playing MIKE linebacker with the first-team defense throughout OTAs. Turning in arguably the most impressive play of the afternoon on either side of the football, he dropped back into coverage and got his hands into a passing lane as Smith tried to thread the needle to Jaxon Smith-Njigba across the middle, juggling the deflection before securing the interception.

After cutting his teeth as a core special teams player in his first three years with Seattle, Rhattigan's steady improvements this spring have positioned him to at least be the primary backup to Dodson at middle linebacker. But based on Macdonald's comments following Tuesday's session, he shouldn't be discounted as a possible candidate to see snaps on defense come September as he continues to earn the coach's trust.

"Jon's improved every day. That's probably the highest compliment I can give him. That's what we want from the rest of our team, guys going out and taking the coaching, taking the field, taking the next step and then keep rolling. He's going to be an integral part of our team wherever it shakes out at the linebacker position, we'll see. But he's doing a great job for us on and off the field. It was cool to see him make some plays today for sure."

4. Experimentation commences along the defensive line with Dre'Mont Jones finally reporting.

While injuries have prevented the Seahawks from seeing their linebacker corps at full strength, the defensive line hasn't had the entire band together in OTAs due to the voluntary nature of offseason practices. Most notably, Jones wasn't in attendance for any of the 10 organized team activities, while Leonard Williams reported late in the process for the last three practices, forcing the coaching staff to wait a bit longer to truly start diving into potential rotations.

But on Tuesday, with minicamp being mandatory, Jones could be seen pummeling bags and flying around the field for the first time this spring. As speculated, he saw the majority of his snaps during team sessions lined up as an outside linebacker in a two-point stance rather than reduced inside as a defensive end, though Macdonald suggested the team has a ways to go before they figure out how to best deploy him in the regular season.

"We don't the answers yet, we don't know how it's going to look come the beginning of the season, but I think his skill set lends to playing matchup ball with him or trying to set another guy up," Macdonald said of Jones. "He can do a lot of things, we've talked about it, but we're really excited about Dre'Mont. He was in great shape today and knew a lot of the stuff we were doing even though he hadn't been in the building, so credit to him for staying up to speed."

Jones wasn't the only noteworthy veteran who could be seen moving up and down the defensive line in Tuesday's practice. Matching what Macdonald's defenses did in Baltimore mixing in different chess pieces up front, Williams and Jarran Reed both played a handful of snaps slid outside, with Williams even playing a few snaps out of a two-point stance outside of the opposing tackle.

With both players weighing over 300 pounds, Williams and Reed being able to play multiple alignments at a high level should open up the playbook for Macdonald. As is the case with Jones, it's too early in the process to know how Seattle will maximize their talents schematically, but signs so far suggest the two veterans will move around more than they did with the previous coaching staff.

"It does open things up. When you have guys who can do multiple things, play different gaps in the run game, rush at different levels in the pass game, it opens up more personnel groups, more looks you can generate. Overall, it's good for us."


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Corbin K. Smith

CORBIN K. SMITH

Graduating from Manchester College in 2012, Smith began his professional career as a high school Economics teacher in Indianapolis and launched his own NFL website covering the Seahawks as a hobby. After teaching and coaching high school football for five years, he transitioned to a full-time sports reporter in 2017, writing for USA Today's Seahawks Wire while continuing to produce the Legion of 12 podcast. He joined the Arena Group in August 2018 and also currently hosts the daily Locked On Seahawks podcast with Rob Rang and Nick Lee. Away from his coverage of the Seahawks and the NFL, Smith dabbles in standup comedy, is a heavy metal enthusiast and previously performed as lead vocalist for a metal band, and enjoys distance running and weight lifting. A habitual commuter, he resides with his wife Natalia in Colorado and spends extensive time reporting from his second residence in the Pacific Northwest.